Pepsi today will attempt to launch its brand -- and hired hand Beyonce -- into the pop-culture stratosphere with a 60-second commercial featuring the wildly popular pop singer. The spot, by ad agency 180 LA, to launch at 9 a.m. ET on Pepsi's YouTube channel, features Beyonce reliving her past and exploring her future while watching herself in a mirror dance to her new song, Grown Woman.
The ad comes at a time when top-draw celebrities are increasingly calling the sponsorship shots as they reach for more creative control and push harder to embellish their own brands, even as they get paid millions to hype sponsor brands.
Earlier this week, rapper Jay-Z announced he's opening his own sports agency to represent top athletes, including Yankees star Robinson Cano. LeBron James, whose brand is global and who even has part-ownership of a British soccer team, has said he became a businessman the first day he stepped onto an NBA court.
"We're entering the age of the celebrity industrial complex," says Patricia Martin, author of Renaissance Generation: The Rise of the Cultural Consumer and What it Means to Your Business. "It's no longer about taking a fee, but about two brands coming together so they both move product."
Martin traces the beginnings of this evolution back several decades to the heydays of basketball legend Michael Jordan and singer Michael Jackson. Since then, she says, the power of the celebrity has grown multidimensional with the rise of social-media celebrity packaging.
"Celebrities don't just want creative approval anymore," says Noreen Jenney Laffey, president of Celebrity Endorsement Network. "They want creative control."
Beyonce will have much of that, and more, including:
--Song power. Her new song, Grown Woman, will be heard by more than 1 billion people worldwide by the time the campaign ends.
--Design power. Beyonce will help design the new cans with her image that will be handed out at special Pepsi-sponsored events -- but not sold in stores. Pepsi will sponsor her upcoming concert tour.
--Content power. Beyonce will play a role in establishing the Pepsi Creative Development Fund, which will be devote to the co-creation of innovative consumer content.
"She is at the epicenter of pop culture," says Brad Jakeman, president of PepsiCo's Global Beverages Group. "We couldn't have asked for a better creative partner."
There are risks at both ends, Martin notes. For Beyonce, it's about embracing a brand that is losing cachet with a generation of Millennials less infatuated with sugary drinks, Martin says. Pepsi's risk, however unlikely, Martin says, is this: "Will the entertainer go off the reservation?"
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